The horrors of World War II, the new and frightening power of the atomic bomb, and the Nazi genocide of Jews and of others deemed unworthy to live shocked the consciences of people all over the world in 1945. This capacity and desire to destroy whole populations of humanity prompted First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to warn that "In the end...we are 'One World' and that which injures any one of us, injures all of us."1
After the war, diplomats and politicians formed not only the United Nations as an international organization, but they also created treaties and institutions to give solid anchor to this vision of a “world government.”
These treaties and institutions included
The hope was that these would help prevent future atrocities. Each of these initiatives aimed to redefine the responsibilities of all governments and individuals toward other people in the world.
In the meantime, even before the war was over, the victors were breaking into two international superpowers:
This began when each faction rushed to control as much of Europe as possible.
The ideological and political battle between these two sides soon evolved into what became the Cold War, which lasted until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. This war, with its threat of a worldwide atomic catastrophe, would define much of the geopolitical landscape, laying the groundwork for military conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East.
At home, the United States was in the throes of a racial conflict over the civil rights of blacks that the wartime economy had exacerbated.
Many African Americans had migrated to northern industrial centers like Detroit for new economic opportunities but soon recognized the familiar bigotry and ostracism that had plagued the nation for decades.
As Eleanor Roosevelt worked hard to orchestrate the drafting and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she supported these US citizens who did not enjoy basic human rights as outlined in the document.
This session will model several pedagogical strategies designed to help teachers address the topic of human rights in the classroom. Those with experience in Facing History's content and methods will recognize a couple of these strategies—Identity Charts and Universe of Obligation. Teachers with an interest in learning about Common Core lesson planning will enjoy resources and strategies for writing text-dependent questions.
We are thrilled to have Professor Allida Black speak to us about the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the challenges that Eleanor Roosevelt faced reconciling each nation’s interpretation of human rights, and what individual characteristics and experiences contributed to her commitment to the Declaration.